Daily Express, Monday, October 19, 1903

Poem 17

(Attribution uncertain)



  [The Duke of Devonshire has joined the Free Food League, 2 which believes in measures being taken for the “mitigation of hostile tariffs.” 3 Mr. Ritchie and Lord George Hamilton 4 have followed the Duke and joined Sir Michael Hicks Beach’s League. 5]


See the ducal bird presiding
O’er his parrot school; besides him
Sit two chicks; such docile scholars
Any master would adore.
Little Ritchie, growing bolder,
Leans upon Lord George’s shoulder,
Chanting with the ducal parrot
That “Your food will cost you more.”

Said I, “Bird of noble station,
What on earth is ‘mitigation’?
Do you hope by feeble twaddle
British commerce to restore?
If you think our trade is failing,
Be a man, and cease this wailing;
Act, instead of falsely squawking
That ‘Your food will cost you more.’

“Will this ‘mitigation’ feed us?
Will the Yank now cease to bleed us?
Will it check the Trusts and dumpers? 6
Will it win a tariff war?
Will it draw our lands together,
Careless of the fiscal weather?”
But the parrots croaked in chorus
That “Your food will cost you more.”

“This,” I cried, “right hard to bear is!
Pray forget your ‘Little Marys,’ 7
Think about the Empire’s future,
What the Fates may have in store;
If we harken to your follies,
Sure am I, oh foolish pollies,
That we’ll find you’ve spoken truly,
Saying, ‘Food will cost you more.’ ”



This poem, uniquely in the series, appeared under the heading “The Parrots”.


The Unionist Free Food League was formed in July 1903, under the chairmanship of Sir Michael Hicks Beach, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. In mid-October, Hicks Beach invited the Duke of Devonshire to join the League and at a meeting on 23 October he was unanimously elected President of the League, with Hicks Beach, Lord Goschen and C. T. Ritchie as vice-presidents.


The word ‘mitigation’ was not used by the League but by the Duke, when, in response to Hicks Beach’s invitation, he sought confirmation that the League did not oppose the government’s policy insofar as it concerned the mitigation of hostile tariffs.


C. T. Ritchie was the former Chancellor of the Exchequer (see poem 11 note 1). Lord George Hamilton was another of those who resigned from the Government in September 1903; he had been the Secretary of State for India.


As noted above, the Free Food League had been formed under the chairmanship of Sir Michael Hicks Beach, who was also its president until he stepped down in favour of Devonshire.


See poem 02.


See poem 06.